Contemporary Lit Discussion Prompt: As we work our way through The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, it is a good idea to practice our skills at close reading. Close reading is a technique of literary criticism practiced originally by the New Critics in the early part of the 20th Century. The basic principle of the technique is the use the text (and as they saw it only the text) to come to some conclusion(s) about the possible meaning of the text. Later critical trends will adopt the idea of close reading but begin to include outside information in their analysis of the text. For this post, choose a paragraph (or two) from the final section of the novel to close read (you will see this post repeat for most of the texts we read in this class). In the typical 1-2 page response, explore how the novel creates meaning through the paragraphs you’ve chosen to explore. This is best accomplished by relying on first impressions and seeking patterns in the text. Look for moments of repetition, for contradictions, similarities, figurative language, sound, genre, allusion, ambiguity, difficulty, diction (what words stand out? Why?). Use what you discover to tie in with the rest of the novel (and what we’ve talked about “outside” the novel–contemporary trends, etc. Make a concise argument about how the techniques above create a specific meaning.
Here are some helpful websites if you’re not familiar with the technique:
My Response: One of the sections of The Brief Life of Oscar Wao that stood out to me was when the Narrator was talking about how he once got jumped and Lola cared for him for a few months afterward, “Only three fucking nights before she got all guilty about the boyfriend and put an end to it. And when Lola puts an end to something, she puts amend to it hard. Even those nights after I got jumped she wouldn’t let me steal on her ass for nothing. So you can sleep in my bed but you can’t sleep with me?” (Oscar Wao Large Print edition Pg. 242). I believe in a way Junior is trying to communicate to Lola that he loves her but she is not reciprocating that love. He cares about her and wants to be more than friends but she doesn’t. She seems to care about him like a brother and is treating him that way by helping take care of him after he got jumped but does not love him in the way he loves her and does not want them to be anything more than friends and he doesn’t really understand that if she can take care of him as if they were more than friends how can she not be more than friends. Yunior doesn’t understand if she is going to be in a relationship with someone else then how can she treat Yunior as if he is her boyfriend and act like he is her boyfriend but not be in a relationship as more than his friends. He even wants and tries to communicate to her that he sees her as more than a friend by being there with her brother when she is not physically able to drop everything to be by his side. In the words of Junior, “Point is: when her brother lapsed into that killer depression at the end of sophomore year — drank two bottles of 151 because some girl dissed him — almost fucking killing himself and his sick mother in the process, who do you think stepped up? Me.” (Oscar Wao Large Print Edition Pg. 242). He tries to communicate his love for Lola by being there for her brother so that she can do the things that she wants to do with her life and make herself happy with out having to worry about Oscar, so she can focus on what will make her happy and she focus on what she wants to do with and for herself.